Google defines Generation Y, or millennials, as “the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, comprising primarily the children of the baby boomers and typically perceived as increasingly familiar with digital and electronic technology.” As of 2012, Generation Y is estimated to number more than 80 million individuals in the United States, representing the fastest-growing segment of the workforce as well as the segment of the population with the greatest purchasing power. While many would characterize Generation Y as lazy, entitled, even narcissistic, this is not necessarily the case. The needs, wants and demands of this segment will have significant impacts on both residential and commercial real estate developments both locally and on a worldwide scale.
While Generation Y people may soon come to have the greatest purchasing power in our economy, they are also the most debt-ridden. Forbes estimated current U.S. student-loan debt in excess of $1.3 trillion. This staggering statistic has forced much of Generation Y to delay major life milestones such as marriage, starting a family and subsequent homeownership. These millennials are highly concerned about the environment, access to information, collecting life experiences and the ability to easily collaborate with their peers. As a result, they are flocking to more urban environments with an emphasis on green technologies, walkability or bikeability, cultural richness and a high quality of life.
What does this mean for Santa Fe? As a community, we must embrace these changes and work to aggressively attract members of Generation Y through creative urban planning, revitalizing our downtown area, improving walkability and improving transportation as it relates to the ability to easily travel nationally and internationally. Santa Fe must be willing to revise zoning, parking and density regulations to allow developers to build the type of micro-communities and infrastructure needed to attract this dynamic segment of the population. The result will be a much more vibrant, diverse and economically sustainable community that everyone, regardless of age, can come to enjoy.